Wednesday, January 12, 2011

cupcake street credentials part III

I come from a family of artists. I am quite gifted at drawing rainbows and stick figures. I probably don't need to say much more than that. Some of you are artists and don't understand...Some of you are gifted at drawing rainbows and stick figures and you totally get it. I used to dread the first day of art classes, the teachers were always so excited to have one of Ben's (my older brother who is an amazing artist) siblings. That excitement quickly faded...I remember one teacher saying to me.."you must be really good at math..." But I didn't let it get me down, I eventually resorted to tracing.
I was working as pastry chef at Tuscany when I took my first cake decorating class. I didn't excel but got the general idea. Techniques like the basket weave and rope were lost on me. And I did successfully learn how to make roses and other flowers. But something clicked, and eventually, after lots and lots of practice, I actually got pretty decent. Pretty soon I could turn cupcakes and cookies into just about anything. Usually I just use frosting, but occasionally I will use fondant or gum paste. Although fondant is pretty, I have found that most people just don't like to eat it...I think I might be one of those people.
cracks me up, because when I give people decorated desserts, often times they wont eat them. To me that's like not hanging a picture on the wall. You can't fully appreciate it unless its in your belly. So in the end, I kind of feel like I might be a little artistic....

These cuties were for a Toy Story Birthday Party. I stayed up late one night frosting them...talking to myself in the characters voices....I like to fully immerse myself in my projects. :)

if you thought these were cute, check out these and these

Monday, January 10, 2011

orange you glad i made cheesecake


My mother saw this cheesecake in Sunset magazine, one of our favorites, and insisted that we needed to give it a try. I am a bit of a cheesecake snob, probably because I do not particulaly love cheesecake....I know...I know...what is there not to love? I'm not sure. It's not that I don't like it, it is that I don't love it...and it is usually one of the last things on the menu I order. When the Cheesecake Factory opened in our city, I was less than enthused...I did finally go and loooooved their Asian Chicken Salad, but have yet to have any of their cheesecake. Stange I know. If do eat cheesecake, I have pretty stringent rules...lol of course I do. My personal preference is that (a) the crust must be as tasty as the filling...graham cracker bores me. (b) It must be sweet, but not too sweet...I hate that feeling that your cheeks and teeth get when I have has too sweet of a dessert. (c) It must cut nicely...now I know that this is where many will differ from me, but I'd rather it be firmer than creamy...if you can't cut it nicely, what is the purpose? When I worked in the restaurant business, I do feel that I perfected my cheesecake recipe. So, when my mom proposed a new cheesecake, I was weary. Immediately, I scanned the recipe for ingredients. Graham Crackers! So of course I made a few adjustments. Mom is a bit of a recipe purist, so she wouldnt let me mess with it too much. Sunset puts out pretty great recipies though, so I wasn't too worried.

So, the few adjustments that I made are as follows:
1. Gingersnap crust- kindof cliche though, I think I would have preferred a a maccaroon cookie instead.
2. 3 tablespoons cornstarch instead of flour, just a personal prefference
3. added a teaspoon of salt to the batter, once again, just a personal prefference.
4. Blood oranges instead of Valencia, the store had beautiful blood oranges so we opted to use them instead. I personally felt the orange caramel sauce was very bitter. I am not sure if this was the result of using blood oranges. I ended up scrapping the sauce and starting over, not using the orange syrup.
5. as you can see, we decorated the cake just a bit different, adding some beautiful raspberries we had.

Overall, this was a pretty good recipe. It didn't steal my heart or anything, but everyone else raved about it. I really didn't like the caramel very much, it was bitter and pithy tasting to me, but I don't absolutely love candied citrus anyway...so maybe don't take me too seriously when it comes to the sauce. It definitaly yeilded a dramatic looking cheesecake, very elegant. It cut pretty good. I cut it when it was very cold with a warm wet knife and had to wipe the blade with every slice. It of course tasted better room temperature as most cheesecakes do, because it makes them more creamy. And finally, I thought it was much better the second day.

Orange Ribbon Cheesecake
Sunset magazine November 2007
Yield: Makes 12 servings
printable version

For topping
1 large thin-skinned orange, such as Valencia
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
For cheesecake
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, or 2 tsp. vanilla
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1. For topping: Rinse and dry orange. With a sharp knife, slice into thin rounds (between 1/8 and 1/16 in. thick; see Notes), discarding ends and seeds. In a deep 10-in. frying pan or pot over medium-high heat, stir sugar, 3/4 cup water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add orange slices and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, until they're slightly candied and translucent and liquid has the consistency of a thin syrup, about 20 minutes (there should be about 1/2 cup liquid in pan; if less, add enough hot water to make that amount and shake pan to mix water into syrup). Let cool in pan. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

2. For cheesecake: Preheat oven to 300°. Pour graham cracker crumbs into a 9-in. cheesecake pan with removable rim; add butter and mix. Press mixture evenly over bottom and 1/2 in. up sides of pan.

3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in flour, sour cream, and liqueur just until incorporated. Pour into crust-lined pan.

4. Bake until center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 60 to 70 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim. Cool completely at room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

5. Remove pan rim. If any moisture collects on top of cake, gently blot dry. Gently lift candied orange slices from syrup, reserving syrup, and blot dry with a paper towel. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, over top of cheesecake.

6. Measure orange juice. Bring reserved syrup to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is deep golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in orange juice (mixture will bubble up). Let cool to room temperature and generously brush over orange slices (you may have extra syrup).

7. Serve cheesecake, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Use a serrated knife to cut cake, wiping blade clean after each slice.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

sugar...no spice...and everything typically bland

I started this blog almost four years ago. It was intended to be a place where students of my cooking classes could find past recipes, an occasional new recipe and have a forum to ask questions. I was unaware at the time, of how many amazing culinary blogs were out there, especially, "home chefs" like myself, who took the mystery out of cooking. I have made many virtual friends throughout this journey, and have enjoyed the camaraderie. I look at how simply this blog began, and clearly can see the growth I have had blogging throughout the years. I didn't realize, that I would feel so responsible to my readers...and feel so neglectful if I didn't regularly post...who knew? So I felt I needed to give you a little background on myself....and my new plan.
Almost three years ago, I received a phone call from Aging Services in California, informing me that my husbands grandmother had been reported as neglected. A couple that was interested in purchasing her home had reported her in hopes to push us to sell her home. I can assure you that she hadn't been neglected, but maybe not cared for in the way that she needed. We had found that Grandma had kept it a secret from us that she was a victim of mortgage fraud...just one of the many victims of the Indy Mac Bank debacle. My husband's father died when he was a young boy and so grandma raised him. We knew it was our responsibility to care for grandma as her own daughter was not interested in helping with the care of her mother. So I found myself a week later driving to California to pack her house up and moving her east to Salt Lake City to live with our family.
No one could have ever prepared me for what this new adventure in my life would be like or become. If anyone would have ever told me I would be a caregiver I might have believed them....if they would have told me that I would have to balance care giving, a marriage and four children...and living next door to my own parents...I would have laughed. That is the funny thing about life, we are extremely adaptable creatures...if we allow ourselves to be. The care giving experience is a roller coaster..that most of the time you would rather watch others ride....it is scary, it is bumpy, it makes you sick, sometimes it thrills you, makes you laugh, often makes you want to scream....but the way I see it, when you are finished you probably will want to ride it again....but won't be able to so you had better enjoy it for what it is worth.
In the years that grandma has been with us, we have survived a short sale (I do not recommend a short sale if you can avoid one), health problems, unhelpful family, dementia, and tax issues caused by the whole mortgage debacle. But we have also enjoyed having grandma, knowing she is well cared for, happy, and content...especially because to her, the joy of waking up to her great grandchildren means everything to her. Unlike raising children, there is a flip side to care giving. You raise your child, celebrating each milestone they reach...when they learn to talk, walk, read, and so on. But with an aging member of the family, you mourn the losses...as their mobility dwindles, they cannot hear you, their vision erodes, and so on. Although, I have tried to anticipate upcoming changes for grandma, they still take me by surprise, and are often time consuming and exhausting. I am constantly amazed at the things that I have said I would never do that I do now. All of this and I am still trying to raise four kids-two of which are teenagers (need I say more?). I have always been a writer, and was shocked to see how completely void of inspiration I became. Even my cooking was suffering...grandma is a bit picky. She would prefer Stouffers Mac and Cheese over the majority of the things I prepare. I was getting a bit plain there for a while. I just couldn't see my blog becoming: Sugar...No Spice..and Everything Typically Bland. Grandma does like a few things I prepare, but for the most part, she is facinated by the fact that people pay me to teach them to cook or spend time reading my blog....lol. What's a girl to do?
The last few months have been extremely difficult for grandma health wise, so I had to re prioritize...and unfortunately left my blogging out in the cold. I will tell you however, that I have been busy cooking and stockpiling great recipes to share with you all. I still intend to continue on with my blog....I love to cook...I love to share...and I refuse to be lost in the title of care giver. So I hope that you can be patient with me as I get the ball rolling again. I love your friendships and comments, it keeps me connected.
So, as I type, I am downloading recipes and pictures to share wth you. Don't be suprised if you find this blog peppered with strange stories about my life now....I need some sort of an outlet.
So please check in Monday for a new volume in this little blog...